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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Major League Baseball and the players’ union are expected to announce Thursday a series of procedural changes, including those to roster size and trading deadlines, the creation of a joint committee that will consider future on- and off-field modifications to the game and a commitment this summer to address the players’ lingering economic and competitive concerns.
MLB has agreed to good-faith meetings that would consider the current economic state of the game — soft free agency, the lost middle class, apparent tanking and service-time manipulation are chief on the players’ agenda — in advance of the next collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires after the 2021 season.
Also, the union will have seats on the committee — those filled by current and former players and union staff — that would recommend competitive changes to the game going forward.
Union head Tony Clark, on his annual tour of spring training sites, on Wednesday met with New York Mets players for more than two hours. Afterward, he said he hoped changes could come during the time of the existing CBA, which would require reopening the agreement.
“We believe a lot of what we’re seeing and the responses that we’re seeing from the fans who love and enjoy our game is such that the longer we wait to address these concerns, the more challenges we’re going to have when the time comes to try to address it down the road,” Clark said. “So doing so sooner rather than later has value.
“Having an opportunity to discuss the issues as we see them we believe is important. To the extent that we’re not able to find common ground, then we’ll continue to address the concerns as we see over the next couple years until the agreement expires.”
The players’ union and MLB are expected to announce they have agreed, in 2020, to:
Roster expansion by one to 26, including a maximum 13 pitchers, in the regular and postseasons. After Aug. 31, rosters may grow to as many as 28, with a maximum of 14 pitchers. Previously, September rosters were allowed 40 players. The larger roster creates 30 major league jobs.
Increasing the injured list and option-recall duration for pitchers from 10 to 15 days.
The shortening of between-inning breaks at Major League Baseball’s discretion.
Extra innings of the All-Star Game would begin with a runner at second base.
The union rejected an MLB proposal that would make it mandatory for pitchers to face a minimum of three batters. MLB has the authority to impose the rule in 2020, and union officials believe that is likely. As part of the recent negotiations, MLB did agree to postpone implementation of a pitch clock for at least two seasons.
Also, MLB and the union agreed to a single summer non-waiver trading deadline — July 31 — and eliminated the Aug. 31 waiver deadline, beginning this season. The union believed late-season trades diminished the relevance of the season’s first four months.
Meantime, in camps throughout Arizona and Florida, the time is coming on roster decisions. Good players will be left behind while teams horde service time.
“We believe it’s hurting the industry,” Clark said. “Being able to say that you have the best players in the world on the field at all times is something you would like to be able to say. And in our current climate at this time you can’t say that.”
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